The Utility of Existential Classification

Classifications of Being in Semiotic Awareness

My Introduction [ 2000 05 25] imagine[d] a moment of drama in which language butts up against gesture. [I’ll link these references after I’ve reconstructed the several hundred modules.] The friction of type against type produces macroinformational light. Please notice my implication that drama may be a sub-set of macroinformation. Macroinformation powers much of all of the arts. I predict that we will find macroinformation to be a major sub-set of human communications. A science of Macroinformation should also endeavor to trace the hierarchy higher: does macroinformation manifest in communications more general than “human”? For now however let us merely endeavor to see what macroinformation is and what explanatory power it might have.

To make macroinformation “visible” and to study it I invoke and would enlist the aid of studies such as epistemology and its important sub-set, semiotics (emphasizing exclusively for the moment its sub-set of existential typing (Classifications of Being)). Note also that my prose invokes the arts of taxonomy and classification. A successful study of macroinformation should inspire new taxonomies and reclassifications.

We won’t go far without some command of the following terms and concepts:

extension (adj. extensional): extending in physical space. The non-physical complement (antonym) of extension is intension.

intension1 (adj. intensional): having no extension in physical space; extending only in time. The physical complement (antonym) of intension is extension.

Pleroma: the physical universe (which some thinkers have denied the existence of. Note that only things deemed important get their existence denied.)

Creatura: the universe of life.

Additional terms such as map and territory I will work into the prose. The semantics of Alfred Korzybski distinguishes descriptions, names, and perceptions from the raw physical universe. His terms for the distinction are map and territory. “The map is not the territory.” Territory is the thing itself: unutterable. Map refers to our mental modeling of the territory. The concept is complicated by living things, especially by sentient living things, among whom intensional “things” may function as “territory.” The art of mapping may come to be thought of as a territory. It remains an intensional territory. Notice please the spelling. Some will inveterately confuse it with “intention.” Intension has nothing to do with volition, will, or consciousness.

Alan Watts translated Korzybski’s concept well in his utterance, “The meal is not the menu.” I add: the brochure is not the vacation; the ad is not the product; the news is not the event … Pleroma and Creatura are terms added by the semantics of Gregory Bateson. Korzybski warned us, the warning largely unheeded, about the harms of confusing map with territory. Bateson, also largely unheeded, exposed the harms of thinking about Creatura the way we think about Pleroma. The behavior of a billiard ball under a condition of impact tells us nothing about the behavior of an organism under similar impact. Striking the cue ball with the cue stick may in consequence send the eight ball into the side pocket. Striking the dog with the cue stick may get you

My semantics emphasize Sentiens (sentience) as a subset within Creatura. For us that subset is dominated by its subset Persona. Sentience is characterized by pattern recognition. Gregory Bateson defined epistemology in those terms: the pattern that connects. Human sentience sees Pleroma in Creatura / Sentiens terms: as pattern. Pleroma is a set of patterns perceived by creatures of Sentiens. What Pleroma might be apart from the Sentiens creatures’ perception of it there’s no way to tell. The line between what part of Pleroma is perceived sanely and what part is eidetically manufactured (perhaps pathologically) will never be altogether erased.

The “love” scene of my preface was imaginary. It may never-the-less relate to any number of actual love scenes as well as to any number of fictional love dramas. I have set out these tools to apply them to the classic scene in which Cleopatra utters the conundrum “salad days.” Only one thing further intervenes: we shall first test the tools on a “real” classic problem.

Anglican Bishop George Berkeley provided philosophy with an enduring conundrum. His question as to whether a tree falling in an uninhabited forest makes a sound is far more widely known than is his name or his principle esse est percipi vel percipere: to be is to be perceived or a perceiver. Into the 1990s Will Smith’s TV character first says yes, there is a sound, then no … then no, then yes … At one point he asks how big the tree is. Bishop Berkeley and Smith’s Fresh Prince would have both been aided immeasurably had their minds been tooled with Batesonian semantics. Of course, without Bishop Berkeley, there might never have been a Korzybskian semantics, nor a Batesonian semantics, nor a hypothesis of Macroinformation. Certainly there would not have been that sit-com episode.

If a man speaks in the forest …
and no woman hears him …
must he be wrong?

With informed semantic categorization, the conundrum with all its ancient confusions evaporates. The “physical” particles making up the cells of the tree exist in Pleroma. Whether we call them strings, quarks, atoms, or molecules, let us for momentary expedience ignore their perceptual aspect and concede them all to Pleroma. (Similarly, the ink that we read as a letter, character, or digit exists in Pleroma: the “datum” exists in Creatura / Sentiens.) The tree as an organism exists in Creatura but outside the sub-set of Sentiens. The vibrations generated by the tree’s falling exist in Pleroma. “Sound” exists only in Creatura / Sentiens. The “word” sound exists only in Creatura / Sentiens / Persona / language / English. Thus, if no creature capable of hearing sound interprets the vibrations as sound, then of course there is no sound. (Wittgenstein might have added that had the forest been in France, there might have been an eclat but no sound.) Confine the “problem” within one tautology and it becomes amenable to tautology. Mix tautology with other logics and a-logics, and it remains imponderable. The very word “if,” redolent of tautology-limited logic, misguides our thinking before the question is well under way.

Hovering behind many “problems” in logic, all too often unconsciously, are assumptions about time mistaken as knowledge. Twenty-first-century science will not advance far beyond twentieth-century science until men like Stephen Hawking acknowledge the non-equilibrium thermodynamics of Ilya Prigogine and his clear statements about time. Macroinformation as offered by this author shares Prigogine’s assumption that time is infinite, Pleroma finite. Pleroma exists somewhere in the infinite “middle” of infinite time. Space may be inextricably linked to time, but the relationship is not mutual. From the perspective of earth we may as well also follow the suggestions of the evidence that Pleroma predates Creatura, that Creatura predates Sentiens, and that Sentiens predates Persona. Bishop Berkeley’s question borders on a denial of Pleroma. It also seems to want to believe that Sentiens predates Creatura! (In the beginning was perception. I believe that though assumptions are unavoidable, glib assumptions are un-sane.

You may also wish to browse my Epistemology Directory for earlier essays on these subjects. Mental Models: Map vs. Territory was one of the first.


Creatura vs. Pleroma:

Stephen Jay Gould’s Full House explains the disappearance of “400 hitting” in baseball in terms of means, medians, and modes in bell curves. All of baseball has moved closer to asymptote in hitting and pitching. Therefore, freak excellence is rare to non-existent: median, mode, and mean have all moved closer to “the right wall” (right being arbitrary) of human possibility. Excellent argument. But elsewhere in the same book (as well as elsewhere in other writing), he compares free-throw averages in basketball to averages in coin flipping. To observe that statistics apply to men in societies is profound: elections and so forth display behaviors akin to things predictable. And certainly Hilter, Vince Lombardi, et alia‘s view of will is simplistic as well as under-examined. But treating a coin and Michael Jordan as indistinguishable reveals Gould and many in his tribe to be in sore need of a little remedial Bateson.

But then the Batesonians already knew that.



I use the term as I have defined it. I intend my usage to match Gregory Bateson’s and Alfred Korzybski’s. Just beginning Emberto Eco’s Kant and the Platypus I see the Professor relate the word to “comprehension” [p. 10] .he’s the professional; I’m the amateur. Comments, please. Meantime, I’m using the definition given.


Information Menu Existential Sets

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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